On July 26, 2023

For the Greater Good — People who need people: Vermonters know all too well


Crises like the weather events of the past few weeks and the senseless death of a young police officer in the line of duty, remind us how fortunate we are if we have treasured family, generous friends, good neighbors, and essential workers in our lives.

But what about those who don’t have people to depend on, even in good times? Those who live alone — whether single, divorced, or widowed — may experience severe loneliness if their family ties and close friendships are diminished. Older people that miss the purpose, structure, and connections their work provided may also experience disorientation, depression and other ailments once they retire.

To be sure, younger people tend to be more engaged and active through social media than their older counterparts, but the lack of genuine friendships can be detrimental to any adult, regardless of age.

If the events of the past few weeks have taught us anything it’s that courage, hope, and empathy will continue to keep Vermont strong. The following are ten recommendations that include local organizations whose purpose is to maintain that strength, to bring out the best — in you, in others, and in Vermont. If you make a few more friends along the way, all the better.   

Don’t let friendships lapse—engage with others in real life, not just online. Schedule meetups in person with friends and colleagues. Contact friends you haven’t heard from in a while, go visit them. If you’re a longtime Vermonter, welcome new people. If you’re new take your cue from the locals but be authentic. Contribute to the community, and people will appreciate you just for that. 

Join social causes and community groups. The Killington-Rutland area is home to many nonprofits that focus on hunger, homelessness, education and other causes. The area has more Rotary Clubs that can be listed here, each one with an altruistic community focus.  Ditto Kiwanis and the Lions. If you have an essential skill, join a nonprofit board. The region’s many religious organizations, churches and synagogues also offer social activities, and you don’t have to be a member to attend. 

Look after older people, and they’ll also look after you. Older people love being invited to social events, especially coffee dates or lunch — even in winter. Ask them for advice. Help them with technology — not just for their computers, but also how to set up their own social media accounts. Their smiles and “a-ha” moments will cheer you in ways you didn’t think possible.

Get away from the laptop, and your comfort zone. Get outside in all four seasons, if possible, and remind yourself how beautiful Vermont can be. Some of the most fulfilling encounters I’ve had in Vermont were when I pushed myself to go out in the evening, even after a long day of work. This region is brimming with arts organizations, ranging from the Paramount Theater to opera companies, museums and galleries. 

Take a course for fun or professional enrichment but do it in person. Community College of Vermont in downtown Rutland offers a variety of courses within a few feet of excellent restaurants and bars. Instructors at Stafford Technical Center are masters at almost every conceivable craft and trade. The Hub CoWorks on Merchants Row is a terrific place to grab a hot desk, hold a group meeting, and spur spontaneous friend-making, in addition to learning how to start a business or grow an existing one.  

Explore the region; you’ll find your tribe. A few examples: a fellow Rotary member clued me in on the Godnick Adult Center’s strength training classes and the tapdancing classes at Miss Lorraine’s School of Dance in Rutland. The Rutland Young Professionals group holds regular mixers and welcomes speakers from all generations. Rutland Pride’s celebration in June drew hundreds to Merchants’ Row, even though it rained most of the day. 

Embrace Vermont’s four seasons, including winter in all its glory. In addition to the year ‘round activities at Killington, the nonprofit Come Alive Outside holds events that encourage individuals of all abilities to have fun in any weather.  

Join a gym, reengage in a sport you love, or try a new one. This area has a myriad of fitness centers that offer individual and group activities, indoors and outdoors, for every interest, level, age, and budget.  

Find a restaurant, brew pub, or wine bar that can become “your place.” The area’s friendly regulars are enthusiastic about engaging newcomers. Get to know the bartenders, servers and chefs and you’ll become a regular too. 

Subscribe to local papers — including weeklies like this one. Not only will you learn about local activities where you can meet people, but you’ll also be supporting a vital public service. 

It shouldn’t take tragedy to make us all appreciate the families we care for, the friends we depend on, the organizations we support, and the essential workers protecting us, regardless of where we live. When Lea Michele, the exuberant star of the hit Broadway revival of “Funny Girl,” sings the classic ballad, “People,” there is a universal reason many audience members shed tears at these words:

“A feeling deep in your soul 

Says you were half, now you’re whole 

No more hunger and thirst, 

But first be a person who needs people  

People who need people

Are the luckiest people in the world.” 

Over the past few weeks, Vermonters have seen these words in action, almost everywhere we looked, especially in facing the most profound tragedy. Courage, empathy, and hope — words that epitomize Vermont Strong. 

Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, based in Rutland, serving charitable & educational institutions: lizdimarcoweinmann.com.

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